It took me dying two times in front of two different audiences to let me realize, I wasn’t naturally good at stand-up.
Not that I was supposed to be, or expected to be.
Still, it hurts when you stand up there in front of everyone, having received some praise and hear silence and smiles, followed by polite claps following you back to your seat.
Matt Chao and Dave Broad came with me to one of them, where I promised them a set full of untested material mostly referring to online dating and delivered just that, to no promise.
“Well, I still taped that if you wanted it.” Dave said, Canon 5D camera in hand.
I considered putting my dying on stage up here, but decided against it.
It’s good in a way, I know, just like with the sketch comedy. There needs to be pain for growth, struggle for learning.
“It’s like being a prize fighter.” My teacher Armando told me, while lifting beverage boxes in the break in our class, “You just have to go out there and get beat up a lot.”
I think it’s motivated me to do so, or at least try. For now, I’m bothering all my friends who do stand-up, trying to cajole them into mentoring me.
The second open-mic I went to was with a nice dude from my SNL writing class, where hubris and a small room led me to get up.
When I apologize to the M.C. afterwards, he told me to “come back with some punchlines”.
Another comedian, Dave Greek (a swell dude) told me about stand-up after I had died at the first open-mic, “What’s important is that you wake up tomorrow and keep doing this.”
“Don’t worry I’ll wake up tomorrow and still want to do stand-up.”
“Oh.” He replied. “I meant not killing yourself, but that’s good too.”
The next night at McDonalds, I went out with a consortium of friends (Ro-bearded Malone, Simon Robinson, Sean Dunn and Zach Weintraub–pictured above) after a showing of the documentary Strong Man at IFC.
“I know I’m not funny enough yet.” I told Zach. “But I’m glad at least I know a lot of people who are doing this sort of thing, or at least trying, you know, to do something with their lives.”
“Oh, sorry bro.” Zach said contritely. “I wasn’t listening, I was too busy putting pre-chopped peanuts onto my Mickey D Sundae.”
“Thanks.” I replied.
Zach was off soon to Argentina to go shoot his crowd-sourced movie, “The International Sign For Choking” and Simon, whose Japan-o-philia included frequently recommending a semi-pornographic Japanese version of the Powerpuff Girls called “Panty+Stocking” to me, was off to teach English in Nippon, where I only assumed he would meet/marry his Japanese wife.
Recently, I had been wondering too if I should take a break, head to Europe or Japan or somewhere and see what was out there for me.
Now, newly girlfriend-less, I felt less reason not to leave New York, at least for a little while, to see somewhere else. Love is like a magnet, or gravity, in that way; good at drawing you back to where you’re coming from.
Still, I felt good about being out in the city, using my time, taking classes and electives and free practices and open-mikes. I was proud I had died trying stand-up, proud I had put myself out there enough to know that I had to learn.
Even if there still weren’t commercials to audition for, my life felt like it was moving and writing, terrifying/gratifying, was happening more than ever for me, with my classes spurning me on with deadlines and timelines and high expectations for material.
I finally met one of those expectations in my sketch-comedy writing class, where I just last week reported that same experience of learning/dying in front a crowd of people I could only assume didn’t respect me.
On that non-hungover Saturday morning before my class, I watched half an episode of “Mr. Show with Bob and David”, analyzed what each sketch was about, its reality and its jokes, thought about something in my life I knew the reality of it and wrote it.
It was a sketch about someone going up at an open mike, saying too many awkward rage-filled things and alienating people.
When they called for notes in the class after reading it, someone raised their hand and said: “I loved it”.
And it was only one sketch.
But it was one sketch to feel good about.
I ran into Eli Rousso, the other day at the movie theater, taking tickets by the door.
Eli was my red-headed doppelganger from Poly Prep, a web designer and man on the hand of cool, who was a good video editor back when I was afraid to even touch the computer than Final Cut Pro was on.
When I saw him, we talked for a couple minutes, just about what he was seeing, who this new girlfriend was he was with and some comments about my blog. Eli’s the sorta guy who says he’s your friend but who doesn’t pick up his phone and who you don’t see for a long time. It’s a good way of preserving that image, that many of have, of people from their high school eternally cooler than themselves.
What Eli said to me once though, upon reading my blog was something to this effect:
“Nick. You talking about girls on your blog, that’s like the pussy. Everyone wants to get to it.”
So yeah, after a year or so of relative domestic happiness and then a couple months of awkward rebound attempts/self-immolation, here I go.
When I talked to Schuyler, my co-worker at the movie theater, about being single and out there, he’d mock my attempts to meet someone on the internet.
“Why don’t you just go out to the bar or the club?” He’d ask. “Plenty of ladies there.”
“Going out to one of those places I won’t meet people that I like.”
“How do you know?” He replied.
“Because I don’t go out to bars or clubs, I don’t enjoy over-priced drinks or rubbing butts on people, so why would I enjoy the people who enjoy those things?”
“Well, alright then, where?” He asked.
“I don’t know. Online, maybe. Or at a party with friends. Or maybe an improv class.” I said and mulled on that last one for a while.
Given that my last attempt to meet someone at an improv class ended with Rob calling me “kinda sad” and the girl telling me she was “busy till [next] November”, I should have been hesitant, but also given that my old Nick Feitel self-embarrassing instincts were beginning to regenerate, I felt darn invulnerable. Felt that way, at least.
“So, teach. That cute coach have a boyfriend?” I asked Armando in between classes. I had been attending an “Improv Coaching Workshop” on Saturdays that was free, where Armando would teach seasoned improvisers how to teach students improv. I/we were the guinea pigs and “the cute coach” had told me a few times I was “real funny”.
“Oh. Her.” Armando recognized after I whispered her name for clarification. “Yes. Yes she does.”
“Well, I mean you met him? Nice guy? Cool guy?” I asked.
“You’ve met him too.” Armando said. “He’s another coach in the class.”
“Oh.” I replied.
“Yeah, but there’s nothing wrong, you know, with having an affinity for someone.” Armando said, in an airy, comforting tone.
“Yeah, I feel ashamed. See you guys in 5 minutes. And went to get some Bubble Tea.
When I came back, the “volunteer” portion of the coaching class still hadn’t begun and so I sat down and played video games on my DSi. A curly-haired young lady, who’d also told me I was funny when I left class last week, in the sort of the way that someone empowers another, sat down next to me and tried to talk to me about video games.
We talked a bit about them, though she was no afficianado, about her job and our college time.
“What did you major in?” I asked, after she told me a fun story about learning improv on a cruise.
“Psychology. But that was 20 years ago.” She said.
Not a deal-breaker.
“Well, uh, sorry if this is like weird.” I replied. “But you don’t look it at all?”
“No, not too weird.” She replied, but then we were ushered in.
I spent some of the class looking over at her, trying to catch a glance or two, noticing her sweater, or her jeans, looking for age or lack thereof, or if she was looking at me.
After class, I went up to her and asked “What’s your last name?” my iPhone out, ready to friend her instantaneously.
“My maiden or my married name?” She asked with a smile and if she was looking for something in my face, I thought I did a decent job of freezing it, before saying “Either one!” and adding her as a friend, just a friend, indeed.
Then there was the girl who came in the first week with leg-warmers, a skirt and a t-shirt that had an ironic description of caves written on it.
Love at first sight.
When she didn’t come back to the second class and someone mentioned he had come in her stead, I let loose one of my weird truthful-isms, saying to him: “Well that’s pretty lame, I was trying to get her number.”
When she came back this week, I wondered as she laughed at some of my creepy “hitting-on-crying-girl improv” scenes, whether word had gotten back.
When I tried talking to her after, waiting on line for the bathroom, she started talking to me about acting and classes and whether I was interested in that.
“Yes.” I told her, without much other context. “Then let me get your email.” she said, followed closely by. “Gotta go, bye.”
I still don’t know what it was for, but I guess if it’s some sort of recruitment for “The Landmark Forum”, I’ll feel bad later.
I left then and headed to Last Pictures’ TOMORROWLAND, a screening of my Feitel-Friend Chadd Harbold’s film BLOCK, as well as others by the good ol’ LP crew. When I stood at the bar by myself for a while, sneaking Whiskey-Ginger-Ales, I took the above blurry picture of Gavin McInnes trying to corrupt Chadd’s parents through conversation, which sounded the alarm with his crew of flunkies and caused me to flee, or retreat, at least.
“Where are you?” I texted Chadd, with the picture. “Your parents are going to grow moustaches and start experimenting with Mescaline.”
Of course, Chadd did some soon; it was his party. I hung out, mostly with Andy Roehm and Brennan McVicar and his lovely girlfriend Vanessa.
I got to see all my friend there, including Rob, shaking thighs like he’d never have to go home, and Zach again, who showed up with Michigonian girlfriend Jenny.
As for me, I found myself stuck at the bar again, with a young lady, a friend of a friend, who kept on talking to me, wanting to hear about improv classes and our respective lives. I snuck her a couple drinks from the open bar, as she wasn’t there to partake due to early morning work (with children no less!) and I even asked for her number at the end of it all and she gave it to me, even though I just kept expecting her to walk away.
“Oh yeah, she does that all the time. Very nice, friendly type.” Brennan told me later on, when we walked down the block to get tacos, but super-funny man Ron Phippen told me, when I admitted to him I had forgotten her name when I first saw her:
“Dude, if a girl knows your name and you don’t know hers, it means she wants to fuck you.”
And like being called funny, I don’t take it as the truth.
But it’s nice to feel that opinion sometimes, true or not.
Was that four strikes? No one’s watching baseball now anyway.
How about four downs, for football.
Or maybe a hit?
Or a concussion?
Or something else.
When I told Matt Chao that we were going to dinner at Grand Central, despite not having any real reason to do that other than a promise of home-made doughnuts, he kinda shrugged and said whatever.
“Better than going home to Jersey.” He replied.
Matt had been getting a lot of ribbing from me, for the fact that I had made fun of him for years for his corporate slavedom working un-paid for PBS a their longest running intern and now here he was, with his first feature-film assistant editing gig, credited as a “shooter” and a “PA” as well on set, getting paid, reportedly, 4 times as much as me and getting a short-short he made for them on the web.
But there he was still, after work, with nothing to do but go home to Jersey.
Which means, he’d call me up a lot.
It was Matt who went with me to the Diamond Lion show, where we laughed our asses off watching people improvise a musical about child abduction and Lord of the Rings copyright infringement. It was Matt who came with me to see Billy the Mime do a show that included a sketch called “The African-American Experience” and “Thomas and Sally: A Night in Monticello”. It was Matt who sat with me in Grand Central, before my Writing for SNL class and was down for getting the prix-fixe menu when all the doughnuts we’d gone all the way uptown for turned out to have sold out at 3pm.
The prix-fixe was at Caffe Pepe Rosso, an outpost of the Italian place by my house, but it was notable for both the portions (a huge soup or smaller salad and a main course) and the price (under 11 bucks) which was less than ordering even any of the entrees on their own, at the location by my house.
The Chicken Parmigiana was great, an unexpected surprise at the uptown locations, which mostly serves Paninis, with a good deal of Italian espresso.
I lapped it up with a salad, but Matt got the soup with some gnocchi for his main and the soup seemed bigger than my entree.
After finishing up, in between biting and Matt reading, I found the check already paid for in classy fashion.
“Don’t worry about it.” Matt said cooly.
“Fuck you, Matt, I didn’t ask for that.” I said full of spite.
“Fine, pay me, bitch.” He said staring down at his book.
“Yeah, whatever, thanks.” I mumbled. “Only cause you make four times more than me.”
Today my best friend Frank called me, after texting me all weekend dealing with his existential lady crisises. Frank lives in Brooklyn, but he’s too busy between the gym and mostly unemployment to ever come by the theater to say hi.
“That’s like, 2.50 there and 2.50 back, bro.” He said.
“2.25.” I commented.
“Anyway, I’m broke.” He said. “And almost to the gym.”
People have their lives, I guess. But it’s nice sometimes, when someone’s down like that Matt.
All, I’m saying.
CAFFE PEPE ROSSO
Chicken Parmigiana with Penne and Lemon/Garlic Arugala Salad- $10.95 (free w/Matt Chao)
Grand Central Terminal Dining Concourse (specials change daily)
4567S to Grand Central-42nd St